A promising Northwestern University graduate student left his new condo in north suburban Evanston Sunday evening to go shopping and grab a drink, but his ordinary night would soon take a tragic turn.
About 8:25 p.m., 25-year-old Shane Colombo was walking in the 7600 block of North Clark Street in the North Side Rogers Park neighborhood when two other people started shooting at each other, according to Chicago police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Colombo was caught in the crossfire, and one of the stray bullets pierced his abdomen.
He was rushed to Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston, where he was pronounced dead less than an hour later, authorities said. Area North detectives were conducting a homicide investigation.
Colombo, who was from Sun City, California, had recently moved to Evanston to join Northwestern University’s Ph.D. program as an incoming student this fall, according to a statement from university officials.
“Our hearts and minds are with Shane’s loved ones during this difficult time,” Teresa Woodruff, dean of the university’s Graduate School, and Adrian Randolph, dean of Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, wrote in a statement. “We extend our deepest condolences to Shane’s partner, Vincent, and all of his family members and friends.”
Colombo and his fiance, Vincent Perez, were excited to start a new chapter after dating long distance for two years while Colombo worked in New York City as a researcher at Columbia University’s Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab. Colombo had previously received a bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University.
“It’s hard,” Perez said. “It’s definitely a process right now, but we love and we miss Shane.”
The couple, who had recently bought the Evanston condo together, had talked via Skype before Colombo was killed. The conversation was mundane. Colombo was planning to go buy some clothes hangers before checking out a bar.
Later on, Perez became worried when Colombo failed to answer his text messages. After tracking the location of Colombo’s cellphone, Perez learned that he was at Saint Francis.
“He was the most brilliant, understanding individual in the world,” Perez said. “He was the most amazing partner.”
Perez, who is from Santa Ana, California, said he and Colombo “didn’t really know what to expect” when they moved, although Colombo had recently visited the area a handful of times. Perez added that they “knew areas to stay away from” and were confident that Evanston would be a good place for them to plant their flag.
Tonya Colombo, Colombo’s mother, was worried about him moving to Chicago, a city known by many outsiders for its violence.
“He assured me it was safe,” said his mother, who noted that she had some of the same reservations when he moved to New York City.
“I f—— hate Chicago,” she added. “I can’t shake it because I didn’t want him to come here.”
She said her son was an independent, dedicated kid who “was always good to people.”
“You would have been a better person from even meeting him once,” said Colombo, who raised her son as a single mother.
When Shane Colombo was 15 years old, he missed his sophomore year of high school after being diagnosed with lymphoma. After enduring both chemotherapy and radiation treatment, his cancer went into remission when he was in his early 20s.
“He was just a good, good kid,” Tonya Colombo said.